Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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Recent News: Panerai Watches

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Gathering of the Classics in Antigua
Scuttlebutt Sailing News, April 18th

Falmouth Harbour, Antigua has taken on the charm of days gone by, the 27th Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Panerai, has brought together an extra-ordinary fleet of traditional yachts from all over the world, the beautiful natural harbour is...Read more

Panerai British Classic Week 2014 entries open
BYM News (press release), April 17th

April 2014 - The British Classic Yacht Club (BCYC), in partnership with the event sponsor Officine Panerai, are pleased to announce that entries are now being accepted for this year's Panerai British Classic Week, which takes place from Saturday 12th...Read more

Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Titanium L.E.
Emag.co.uk, April 16th

Panerai is celebrating the ten year anniversary of its Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge this year and to commemorate the occasion, it's releasing this special Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Titanium L.E. The watch boasts a 47mm titanium case with a ...Read more

Bamford Watch Department Panerai PAM 514 Radiomir 1940 3 Days | First Look
stupidDOPE, April 7th

If you have been checking out our wrist wear selections here at stupidDOPE, then you have probably seen more than a few pieces from the good folks over at Bamford Watch Department, and for good reason. Today their back, this time around with yet...Read more

Panerai And The $72000 Pocket Watch
Forbes, March 31st

0328_life-eye-panerai-pocket-watch_970x1128 Panerai, the one-time watchmaker for the Italian navy, created this old-school edition of 50 pocket watches ($71,800) for men who appreciate the functionality of clean design–and a clean wrist. But the 3 Days ...Read more

Brand development: Founded 1860 – just in time for the 21st century
Financial Times, March 26th

Many established watch brands are extremely wary in the current market. Which makes Officine Panerai's optimism about its prospects and its bullish strategies for growth all the more surprising. The company started life in 1860 as a Florentine workshop...Read more

Panerai Transat Classique 2015 3000 nautical miles of classic sailing from ...
BYM News (press release), March 20th

The fascinating volcanic Canary Island of Lanzarote and exotic Martinique in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles are the departure and arrival ports for the Panerai Transat Classique 2015 (www.paneraitransatclassique.com), the next edition of the renowned ...Read more

Panerai Transat Classique sets sail January 7th, 2015
Sail World, March 20th

The departure and arrival ports for the 2015 Panerai Transat Classique will be the fascinating volcanic Canary Island of Lanzarote and the exotic Martinique in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles. The next edition of the renowned transatlantic race for...Read more